Life's Little Charms

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I am not a spendthrift, but I don’t
qualify as overly frugal either. I try for a happy medium, but
in fact, I don’t waste money on low-value junk food, spend excessively
at night clubs, buy elaborate jewelry, nor do I run up credit
card debt. But there is one thing that I can never get enough
of, and that is books.

Books
are a near-addiction for me. I can spend hours alone reading,
and I’ll strategically turn
a deaf ear to a relentlessly ringing phone so I can do just that.

Sunday night is, by and large, my
favorite reading time. The typical winter reading scenario is
the furnace cranked up to 74, me snuggled in one of Mom’s handmade
afghans, a Detroit Red Wings game on the tube, my chocolate lab
sprawled on the couch next to me, and some merlot a short reach
away. If my book time is during the day, nix that merlot, for
my chosen pleasure is one of my numerous java creations.

How I get to buying those books,
however, is where I experience the most joy. For starters, there
is one thing in this world that I find to be a huge temptation,
and that is Amazon.com’s one-click.

One-click
is exactly that. I press one button on Amazon.com and my credit
card temporarily absorbs the shock. Hey, no problem — I get
a few more Northwest frequent flyer miles for every purchase
I
make.

Oh
how I fear those nights I’m having
trouble sleeping — because I’m thinking about the next day’s
client from hell — and I pop on Amazon at 3am, and the usually
razor-sharp, 3pm mindset that says "nope, can’t afford it" gives
way to the "aw, my shopping cart is only up to $109" frame
of mind. My latest 3am one-click bliss got me a box full of goodies,
including Nicholas Edsall’s Richard
Cobden: Independent Radical
,
John Remington Graham’s A Constitutional History of Secession,
Mark Blaug’s Economic Theory in Retrospect, and the especially
exciting (to me anyway) A History of Accountancy in the United
States
by Previts and Merino.

Of
course, there are those late nights where I’m still up when my
alarm clock is set to go off in just a few hours, and on those
nights I tend to drift over to Amazon right before bedtime — just
to browse of course — and I may not buy, but I end up clicking
away, filling my Wish List so it’s full for my next 3am session.

Another great time for me is a relaxed
weekend afternoon during the winter, when I’m stuck inside, wishing
away the gray skies, all charged up on latte, and browsing the
web for every book that I plan to get, tricking myself into thinking
I need to read them all right now. One click on Amazon and the
books are typically at my door in three days.

Then
there are those times I feel like touching and holding a beautiful
binding and turning crisp pages, because then I can get a glimpse
of all the various facets of a book that make it unique from
the next one: the font style and size, the slipcover, and my
favorite feature — the table of contents. The table of contents
can make or break a book sale for me. The folks at Amazon know
how important this is, for now Amazon makes available — for
many of its books — the table of contents, the index pages,
the inside
and back covers, and a range of pages throughout the book. This
is Amazon’s way of competing for sales from the "touchers" like
me — those that like to look, touch, and feel, and therefore
may deem cyber purchasing a bit impersonal. Being able to cyber-flip
through pages on Amazon gives us touchers a sense of shelf shopping.

But
sometimes, I just need to walk along the bookshelves and look
at ‘em and touch ‘em, even if
I don’t buy a thing.

I love modern bookstores, with a
two-story Borders being my first choice. Good java, a coffee
bar, plush chairs, a great magazine rack, and the best social
sciences section on the planet. It sure beats a stinky bar
full of desperate, plastic people on a Friday night.

However,
my favorite place for the personal book experience is downtown
Detroit’s John K. King
Books
,
a magnificent, zillion-square-foot, four-story warehouse of used
books. This is where I end up on wintry Saturday mornings. Right
across the street is the MGM Grand Casino, but MGM doesn’t even
whisper my name.

From the outside, John K. King looks
like an abandoned factory of sorts. The parking lot is protected
by high fences because it sits on the outskirts of a ghetto.
On the inside, it is unkempt and smelly, and in order to see
into the bookshelves, you have to reach up and pull the chains
on these nasty, 70s-era, hanging shop lights — the kind
that a disorganized mechanic would have in his antiquated garage.
By the time you have touched a half-dozen books in this place,
you’re slapping the dust off your hands and clothes. In addition,
there are no elevators; you have to walk up eight flights of
stairs.

Want the desk clerk to look up the
availability of a book on their computer? They don’t have a computerized
system. They can tell you approximately what section that book might be
in, if they have it, and if it was shelved properly.
If you’re looking for Mencken, his stuff is found in at least
three different sections. On three different floors. Are you
paying with a credit card? You can, but they will run your card
through one of them old-fashioned credit card zappers and hand
you back a carbon-type receipt.

Sound
great? It is. The people there love books and it shows. As you
walk up the stairs, at the top of the musty stairwell — for each
floor — they have a huge wall directory that spells out on what
floor and what section you will find a given topic: political
science, history, philosophy, trains, photography, and on and
on. History alone has about 20 or more subsections by era and/or
region.

I always head for the "Right
Wing" section first. That they name a section that is probably
a negative connotation, but it’s the convenience that counts.
Yeah, you’ll see the David Brock and Bill O’Reilly junk over
there, but then again, you’ll also catch gems from Frank Meyer,
Frank Chodorov, and Roy Childs on a good day.

Recent treasures I unburied at John
K. King include Margaret L. Coit’s John C. Calhoun: American
Portrait
; Eivind Berggrav’s Man & State; William
Ebenstein’s Man and the State; Clarence Carson’s Flight
from Reality
; Raymond Leslie Buell’s Isolated America; and The New
Right Papers
, edited by Robert Whitaker. Try finding that
stuff at any other new or used bookstore.

Books at John K. King aren’t super
cheap, but you will be able to find books and/or editions that
you will find nowhere else, save for a lengthy web search. And
that bookstore, combined with a little Borders and a lot of Amazon,
makes for exactly the right recipe to feed a healthy appetite
for wonderful, edifying books.

A fellow LewRockwell.com writer
and good friend of mine once said to me, "I just like to
be home to read my books." Amen to that.

Karen De Coster, CPA, [send her mail] is a paleolibertarian freelance writer, graduate student in Austrian Economics, and a business professional from Michigan. Her first book is currently in the works. See her Mises Institute archive for more online articles, and check out her website, along with her blog.

Karen De Coster Archives

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